Summary: Something happened to Castiel when he rescued Sam from Lucifer's cage. 4 months in Hell feels like 40 years to a human. For an angel it's like 4000. Can Dean save Cass from his own hallucinations? Hurt / comfort, AU of the end of season 5, can be read as pre-slash.

Author's Note: This is an AU. The story starts after Cass has rescued Sam from Hell. He took him straight to Bobby's house.

Mirages of Perdition
PenPatronus
Chapter One
Found

After Dean reunited with the resurrected Sam and assured himself that his brother was safe and comfortably asleep on Bobby's couch, he asked the elder hunter if Castiel was still there. Dean wanted to thank the angel for rescuing his brother.

Hell, he wanted to hug him.

Bobby sighed and stared down at his feet. "He's locked in the panic room," he said.

"What? Why is he down there?"

"You'll see why."

Dean started to ask questions but Bobby just waved them aside, so he went downstairs and knocked on the door. "Cass?" he called. "It's Dean. You ok, man?" He peeked through the flap and saw a ripped, singed trench coat on the floor and a blood-soaked black suit coat on the bunk. Castiel's tie had been tossed across the lampshade of the single light in the room. Dean's fists tightened with anxiety. "Cass? Dude, can I come in?"

Dean waited for the angel's permission but all he got was silence so he opened the iron door and shut it quietly behind him. It took several moments for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Finally he saw a figure sitting against the far wall. Castiel's white shirt was torn in a dozen places. The visible skin on his arms, chest and neck showed second and third degree burns. Blood slowly dripped from a cut in his forehead. It trickled down his cheekbone to his chin, fell off and landed in his hands, which were folded in his lap.

Dean's stomach clenched in horror at the sight. "Cass?" he whispered. He approached the angel like he was a rabid animal about to pounce. The elder Winchester cleared his throat and said louder, "Cass!"

Castiel slowly raised his eyes and squinted. He swallowed several times, blinked, and whispered, "Are we in Hell?"

Dean's lips parted and he frowned. "No, Cass, we're at Bobby's. On earth." Dean squatted on his haunches in front of the angel.

Cass frowned slightly and licked his lips. "I need to find them."

"Find who?"

Cass didn't answer. Instead he pulled himself to his feet and slammed his right fist against the wall, then his left. When that didn't break the iron, he kicked at it. Blood from his knuckles splattered across the floor. "Dean!" he yelled. "DEAN!"

"Cass!" Dean grabbed his arm. "Cass – what the hell – I'm right here!"

Castiel shoved Dean aside and threw his shoulder against the wall again and again. His shouts became screams: "Sam! SAM! DEAN!"

The iron door opened behind them and Bobby entered the room. "Bobby, help!" Dean yelled. He tried to grab onto Cass again and once again landed on his ass. "He's going to hurt himself!"

Instead of grabbing Castiel, Bobby snatched Dean. He pulled him to the other side of the bunk. "He's hallucinating, Dean. He'll wear himself out in a minute."

"Hallucinating? Angels hallucinate?"

"Cass has been since he delivered Sam. He was fine for a few minutes – wounded, but still himself – then he called me a demon, attacked me, even tried to attack Sam. He snapped out of it after awhile and I coaxed him down here."

"He's hurt bad," Dean observed. "Why hasn't he healed himself?"

"He's out of angel mojo, I reckon. Dean, something must have happened to him in Hell," said Bobby. "Something nasty messed with his head. And…" Bobby's voice trailed off and he shook his head.

"And what?" Dean asked through clenched teeth. "Bobby, what?"

Bobby sighed. "Dean, Cass said that he had been down in Hell since the night Sam fell in."

Icicles trickled behind Dean's eyeballs. "Bobby, that was four months ago. You're saying that Cass was searching for Sam in Hell for forty years?"

"No," said Bobby. "Cass said that, for an angel, it was like 4,000 years. Who knows what could have happened to him in that time."

"Shit," was Dean's response. "We have to help him, Bobby. We have to."

"I know. I just wish I knew how."

It took another ten minutes for Castiel to run out of steam. He stopped shouting and punching and braced himself against the wall, his forehead pressed against the iron and his shoulders shaking as he gasped for breath. "Dean," he whispered.

Suddenly, Cass collapsed to his knees.

Dean shook Bobby away and dashed over. Gently he lifted Cass up and cradled him in his arms. The angel's blue eyes opened half-way, focused on Dean, then widened to twice their size.

"Dean?" Castiel recognized him.

"It's ok, Cass. I've got you. I'm here."

"I found you."

"Yes, you did. And you're not in Hell anymore."

"I found you," Cass repeated. "Dean, it took lifetimes for me to get to Sam. When I finally did, Lucifer — Lucifer…" Castiel shook his head and his eyelids drooped.

"Cass?" Dean whispered. "What did Lucifer do to you? What happened?"

Cass tried to speak and failed. His eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp in Dean's arms.

To Be Continued